SPIEGEL: It is unusual for a US presidential candidate to travel to Europe in the middle of the campaign. Why is Barack Obama coming?
Susan Rice: Senator Obama believes it is critically important for the United States and Europe to cooperate far more effectively than we have in recent years. None of us can tackle the critical global challenges we face in isolation -- be it terrorism, proliferation, climate change, disease, poverty or energy security. Obama will want to discuss in Europe and Germany how we each view these challenges and how we can best address them together.
SPIEGEL: Critics say the trip is nothing but a PR stunt to strengthen his foreign-policy credentials and that he has only rarely been to Europe before.
Rice: Senator Obama has travelled to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia many times before. He lived in Asia. He bows to nobody in his understanding of this world. This trip will be yet another opportunity for Senator Obama to exchange views with the leaders of countries whose partnership is critically important to US national security.
SPIEGEL: The reception for Obama in Europe will be very warm. But too much European enthusiasm could backfire in an US election campaign.
Rice: Americans understand that our security is enhanced when the United States is trusted and respected in the world. Unfortunately, our standing in the world has diminished in the last several years. This has hampered our ability to work cooperatively to confront global challenges. Americans are hungry for change both at home and in our relations with the rest of the world. Barack Obama represents a dramatic departure from the policies of the last eight years. There is no downside to Americans seeing the promise of change manifest both domestically and internationally.
SPIEGEL: Many expect Obama to promise "tough love" to the Europeans -- more listening, but also more demands.
Rice: To deal effectively with critical global security challenges will require a greater commitment from both sides of the Atlantic. We cannot afford a least-common-denominator approach. Both America and Europe will have to do more to uphold our respective responsibilities in the context of true partnership -- whether the issue is climate change, halting Iran's nuclear program or securing Afghanistan from Al-Qaida and the Taliban.
SPIEGEL: What would be the major change in trans-Atlantic relations under a President Obama?
Rice: Obama would proceed from a fundamentally different premise than has been the case in recent years. Obama does not perceive Europe in terms of "old" versus "new." He thinks it would be counterproductive to kick Russia out of the G-8. He sees the world as more complex than simply good versus evil. He recognizes that we can only deal effectively with global challenges if we have 21st century partnerships that work -- partnerships based on shared values, common security and mutual respect, in which everybody does their part and pulls their weight.
SPIEGEL: You said Europeans have to "pull their weight." What would that mean exactly in terms of their contribution in Afghanistan? More troops?
Rice: Obama's view is that circumstances in Pakistan and Afghanistan pose the most dangerous threat to Europe and the US right now. Al-Qaida is regrouping and reconstituting their safe haven; the Taliban are gaining strength. Europe is closer to that threat than we are. Yet, we all have to take it very seriously. The US has to put more resources and troops into Afghanistan, and NATO should do the same, while -- to the greatest extent possible -- lifting operational restrictions.
SPIEGEL: Would that lead to disillusionment with Obama in Europe?
Rice: We must be honest in acknowledging that neither Germany nor the US has the luxury of assuming that we can skate by on half-measures in Afghanistan and Pakistan and not risk suffering the consequences.
Interview conducted by Gregor Peter Schmitz.